Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back to the glorious past!

Time and again, I come across people who, with a sense of nostalgia, wish to re-establish a glorious era from the past.

"How great it would be to have politicians with integrity as much as Gandhi, Nehru and Patel had".
"People used to be pious and disciplined the days for saint Ramanuja and Nigamanta desikar. Nowadays even in the mutts, crooks roam about! When will our culture regain its past glory?"

When encountered with this situation, my mind goes into a spin. Has the past been better than the present? Does the world degenerate in terms of morality and discipline as it journeys into the future?

Here is what I know from my observation. When I look at my family and that of my friends, I find that "grand parents" have definitely been more meticulous in doing things. The extent of meticulousness is possibly lesser in the "parents" generation. But, when it comes to comparing "parents" with "off-springs"it is not a question of extent, but a question of "intent". It seems people of my generation often ask their parents "Why do I have to be meticulous?". This is a general observation of course, and exceptions sure are present. But again, does it mean that we degenerate in discipline? Or does the very definition of discipline and "meticulousness" go through a change?

In the context of a community as large as a state or a country though, history seems to highlight a potential risk at trying to re-establish lost glory of the past. Hitler, quoted many times as an example of "what not to do", again finds himself quoted. He wanted to build a Third Reich aiming to re-establish the lost glory of medieval Holy Roman Empire (962–1806) and to the modern German Empire (1871–1918). He ended killing Jews in millions and himself.

Khmer Rouge to have got its ideology of "social engineering" by means of creating a self-sufficient agrarian economy is stated to have based its ideology the glorious past of the Khmer civilization which built the great temple of Angkor Wat (see BBC documentary on Angkor Wat). The large water bodies surrounding the temple was believed to be for irrigating a large rice growing project that was the lynch pin of the glory of civilization. Pol Pot forced people to hard labour in rice fields believing that it is the way back to the Khmer civilization. Like Hitler, he too ended up only killing thousands of people without anything good to show. Later elaborate surveys by water engineers revealed that water bodies were not even used for the rice project to begin with! So much for a misconception!

Within India itself various self-appointed guardians of culture further corroborate the lessons we can learn from Hitler and Pol Pot.

I guess the lesson to be learnt is, if there is a natural degeneration of human morality, discipline and culture, trying to regain the "glorious past" only seems to degenerate it faster!


Anand said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anand said...

i think i know why trying to recapture the glorious past ends up being quite the opposite. people always want to leave a good impression long after they are gone. so most of writings (by those who were in power) paint a glorious picture. whatever shit happened is discovered after we head down the path to recapture it. add to it, the present day politics, customs and other factors - that's one big glorious shit.

Maayaa said...

Very nice post badhri..
I have been thinking on this for quite sometime. I want to add my comments in here.
1. "Glorious past"- Dont you feel past should have had both glorious part and the not so glorious part. yeh.. the generations just above us have had meticulous way of living.. i agree. but there has been major periods of atrocity and major villians even in those early period against the so-called normal people of that world- with whatever quality that were considered inappropriate..
2.secondly, reg the "degeneration of glory/morality or so", i feel the definition for every thing is changing-rather new definitions are evolving. this generation has focus on invention, the so called progressing towards brighter /civilised life, techno stuff - if you see a day of ours, our thoughts are filled with various things that may or may not be relevant to us for the present/immediate future. my perspective on this is..as our attention and focus are on many and wider things, the quality of living has gone down- we dont focus to be perfect but on learning many things..be competent..and by increasing our pace of life with techno living, we cannot have greater attention span. for example, imagine those people who did "kula thozil- the family job", they avoided all the confusion of what job to do etc - on what we spent atleast 2-3 years and still keep doubting), their focus will be on how to excel in that.
by saying all this, we cannot advocate, lead a slow life..learn things thoroughly etc..now its a part of us. after all, we are all in the rat race!! there should be some drastic change to slow the race requirement or we can drop out w/o feeling bad abt us...well, my point is " it may/may not be a degeneration but it is just that our attention is divided, our definitions have changed and our focus is widespread with all complications that we brought in our lives"
my 2 cents..

Maayaa said...

glorious past - it might even be that the glory part is probably even exaggerated to some extent at every now and then..

Rama was considered great just because they WERE people who were not with one-wife.
Ramanuja was considered the socialist just because there WERE people who were divided by ethnicity and sub-sects..

so, the glory that we read and hear may even be an exaggerated thing !!